Australian tour opener finds Supertramp co-founder in fine voice and with a band to match
Review by Mike Sweet
The elegant Palais Theatre in Melbourne’s St Kilda district sits next to Luna Park, the city’s iconic funfair – and if the tunnel of love was doing good business next door, another opened in the art deco theatre last night – as nearly 2000 fans welcomed Roger Hodgson back to Australia.
Two years after his last visit Hodgson is back, accompanied not just by the amazing multiskilled instrumentalist Aaron Macdonald, but band members Bryan Head (drums), Kevin Adamson (keyboards) and David J Carpenter (bass).
And this tight-knit combo delivers in spades. The set-opener Take the Long Way Home set the tone for the evening – a feast of Hodgson’s classic songs, most of which became anthems for a generation of Supertramp fans – the British rock band that Hodgson fronted from the early 1970s up until his departure in 1983.
Hodgson’s banter from the beginning set the tone for an evening. "These songs are my life journey,” says Roger, before Aaron Macdonald’s harmonica blows the haunting opening to School from Crime of the Century – the 1974 album that was a game-changer in the ‘tramps evolution from hopeful prog-rockers to stadium stardom.
Unsurprisingly, songs from ‘Crime’ continue to be highlights of Hodgson’s live performances, and for good reason.
"A line or a lyric can make you feel you’re not alone. Music can hold memories like nothing else,” says Roger, before a powerful Hide in your Shell pushes the set into overdrive.
And there’s the rub; memory and music. Most of the audience first heard these songs as twenty-somethings or younger, in seemingly simpler, more innocent days. Their response to the songs and their author – is that of a chance meeting with a long lost friend.
Easy does it – the chorus to which the audience whistles along to enthusiastically – segues into Sister Moonshine before Hodgson reveals his motivation for the title song of what became Supertramp’s most commercially successful album.
"An 18-year-old I had these dreams of beautiful californian girls,” he says before serving up a rousing Breakfast in America.
All the while – with bewildering artistry – Aaron Macdonald is stage left, his saxophone, melodica and harmonies now a rich integral part of Hodgson’s sound and stagecraft.
The band haven’t played together for three months since their last gig in the US, but nail each and every song with verve and authority.
Roger’s plaintive, powerful plea for self-knowledge – The Logical Song finishes the first set before an intermission puts the music on pause. But no worries – no-one’s in a hurry on this journey tonight.
The band pick up where they left off – a pulsating Child of Vision before Death and a Zoo – Hodgson’s musing from his 2000 album Open the Door on the incarceration of wild animals – complete with trumpeting elephants and baboons hollering in some hot African night.
After Lord is it Mine the insistent staccato chords of Dreamer ring out, as fresh and urgent as they sounded almost nearly 40 years ago.
Having been invited to once more put our hands in our head to work out what’s going on in our lives, the set closer, as it was for Supertramp so many times, is a stirringFools Overture.
The evening concludes with a magical Two of Us before Give a little Bit has the audience on their feet, dancing and clapping along in rapturous celebration. It’s Raining Again keeps that joyful spirit going to the last.
Roger Hodgson’s Australian Tour 2013:
Brisbane, Tivoli, March 30, http://www.ticketek.com.au
Byron Bay, Bluesfest, March 31, http://www.bluesfest.com
Sydney, State Theatre, April 3 & 4, http://www.ticketmaster.com.au
Adelaide, Thebarton Theatre, April 5, http://www.venuetix.com.au
Perth, Riverside Theatre, April 7, http://www.ticketek.com.au